New insights into brain function are revealing transformative ways to help children suffering from psychiatric disorders, said Mani N. Pavuluri, an authority on paediatric brain function.
Dr Pavuluri is professor of psychiatry, psychology and neuroscience, Berger-Colberth Chair in Child Psychiatry at the Pediatric Brain Research and Intervention Centre (PBRIC), University of Illinois at Chicago.
Functional magnetic (resonance) neuroimaging (fMRI) was helping understand the brain function of children suffering from mood disorders like attention deficit hyperactivity disorders (ADHD) and bipolar disorders and other diseases that fall within the autism spectrum, Dr Mani said.
Dynamic Casual Modelling (mapping brain function) and haemodynamics (mapping the pattern of blood circulation) were throwing more light on these types of psychiatric diseases and how to treat the children better, she said.
While the labels used for children vary at different levels the real problem at the brain function level would the same, she said.
What parents see as the “child not listening to them” could be perceived as the child having a reading problem by the teacher.
The psychiatrist would be able to recognise it as ADHD and that meant at the brain function level it would be a problem with ‘working memory’.
What parents may perceive as “failing in class” and the teachers sees as a problem with writing could be diagnosed as bipolar disorder and at the brain function level it would be an impulse control problem.
Similarly, what parents see as “excessive worrying” and the teachers call ‘difficulty with math” could actually be “anxiety disorder”.
Parents often see children having autism spectrum disorders as “explosive and bullying”, but the teachers see it as student with spelling problem.
This came under the domain of emotional regulation’.
Dr Mani says that ‘mindfulness’ is helpful for children with mood disorders. Children should be encouraged to be still, listen, focus, and be aware. They should be taught to let thoughts flow without judging, be in touch with all their senses, focus on breathing (it slows down the thinking).
Children should be trained to make annoying or disturbing triggers reminders to refocus on breathing in and smiling, all part of the Buddhist technique of being mindful.